Our CPAP support specialists are committed to ensuring you receive the education and support required to make your experience with CPAP treatment successful.
If you are having difficulty tolerating CPAP, try the following steps to help to get used to it:
Wear the CPAP mask at home while awake for 1 hour each day.
Attach the mask to the CPAP device, and switch the unit “on.” Practice breathing through the mask for 1 hour while watching TV, reading or performing some other sedentary activity.
Use the CPAP during scheduled 1-hour naps at home.
Use CPAP during the initial 3-4 hours of sleep.
Try these in step-wise fashion advancing to the next step after five days, once the previous step can be done without anxiety.
Adjusting Humidity Setting (ResMed AirSence Device)
The humidifier moistens the air and is designed to make therapy more comfortable. If you’re getting a dry nose or mouth, turn up the humidity. If you’re getting any moisture in your mask, turn the humidity down. You can set your humidity between 1 and 8. 1 is the lowest setting and 8 is the highest.
Adjusting Ramp Time (ResMed AirSence Device)
The ramp option is designed to make the beginning of therapy more comfortable. Ramp time is the period during which the pressure increases from a low start pressure to the prescribed treatment pressure. You can set your ramp time to Off, 5-45 minutes or Auto. When it is set to Auto, the device will detect when you have fallen asleep and automatically rise to the prescribed pressure.
Studies show that more than six hours a night of therapy leads to normal levels of self-reported and objectively measured daytime sleepiness, along with substantially improved daily functioning and memory. Yet, so many people don't use their masks for multiple reasons. In many cases, it's because it's not comfortable to wear. Therefore, it's important that you are comfortable with your mask.
What Mask Type Do You Prefer?
Best for those who tend to breathe with their mouth. This mask will provide full coverage to ensure you get the best sleep.
Pros & Cons
Nasal pillows are a compact and lightweight option for your patient with designs that allow minimal contact with their face. They work best with prescriptions of low-to-moderate pressure settings, since airflow that is direct to the nostrils may be uncomfortable at high settings.
Dr. Clerk recommends nasal pillows to patients who:
Toss and turn in their sleep.
Experience claustrophobia when wearing larger masks.
Breathe through their nose.
Have a lot of facial hair.
How Are Nasal Pillows Used?
Nasal pillows rest at your patient's nostril entrance and create a seal that directs the pressurized air directly into their nose.
Pros of Nasal Pillows
Some pros to nasal pillows include:
Some patients like to watch television or read before they go to sleep, and regular CPAP masks could make it harder to do this. Nasal pillows provide more open vision than full face masks or traditional nasal masks.
Patients may wear their glasses when wearing nasal pillow masks since there's no coverage over the bridge of their nose.
Nasal pillows provide minimal facial coverage and are lightweight which is why many patients with claustrophobia prefer them. Patients also like the fact these masks don't have a lot of material touching their faces.
Nasal pillows reduce air leakage since they direct air into the patient's nasal passages.
These work well for patients with a beard or mustache.
Cons of Nasal Pillows
Nasal pillows are not ideal if your patients require higher pressure since they direct airflow into their nasal passages and this could be uncomfortable. Some patients may experience higher incidences of nosebleeds or nasal dryness due to the direct air pressure. If your patient isn’t used to breathing out of their nose, nasal pillows not be ideal for them. However, if they are mouth-breathers and they prefer the nasal pillows, they can be used with a chin-strap.
A nasal cushion covers your nose from the bridge to their upper lip area. This delivers an indirect airflow to the airway via the nasal mask and works well for patients who need higher pressure settings.
A nasal cushion offers your patients many versatile options and is a popular compromise between the bulky full face mask and the lightweight nasal pillow.
Dr. Clerk recommends nasal CPAP masks to patients who:
Move around in their sleep a lot.
Need a higher pressure setting on their CPAP machine.
Want a good selection of mask options they can pick from.
Prefer a more natural airflow.
How Are Nasal CPAP Masks Used?
Nasal masks are popular among patients who wear CPAP masks since there are many fits and sizes available.
Pros of a Nasal CPAP mask
Some pros of nasal CPAP masks include:
Indirect and natural airflow.
Work better than nasal pillows for higher pressure settings.
Various styles to cater to almost any type of facial feature and structure.
Good if your patient moves around in their sleep or sleeps on their side.
Cons of a Nasal CPAP Mask
Nasal CPAP masks do come with some downsides. They're not a great choice for patients who are mouth breathers unless they are used with a chin-strap that keeps their jaw and mouth closed. In some cases, users may experience some irritation from mask pressure on their forehead or the bridge of their nose.
If your patient has a cold or a history of allergies, blockage of their sinuses can be a problem in the delivery of the pressure.
A nasal mask may not be the best choice for your patients who find it hard to breathe through their nose due to certain medical conditions, like a deviated septum, narrowed or collapsed nasal valve, or enlarged turbinates.
Unlike nasal masks and nasal pillows that seal on the nose exclusively, the full face mask covers your mouth and nose. They cover a larger area of your patient's face to create a CPAP seal over both airways. Although some patients may find the bulky size of these masks a bit uncomfortable, they're the perfect solution for those patients that require higher pressures or if they breathe through their mouth.
Dr. Clerk recommends nasal full face CPAP masks to patients who:
Breathe through their mouth primarily.
Need a high-pressure CPAP setting.
Have allergies or other medical issues that make it difficult for them to breathe through their nose.
Sleep on their back.
How Are Full Face Masks Used?
These full face masks cover your mouth and nose and much of their face using side straps to keep their mask in place.
Pros of a Full Face CPAP Mask
Full face CPAP masks are good for patients who breathe through the mouth. Patients with frequent congestions due to cold symptoms or allergies or nasal obstructions will benefit from these masks. Claustrophobic patients often prefer full face masks that cover their entire face, oddly enough, since they only touch the outside of their face. This is opposed to nasal CPAP masks and nasal pillows that touch the patient’s bridge of the nose and upper lip of fit directly into the nostrils.
Full face masks work well for higher CPAP pressure settings since the wider mask surface area makes the pressure seem less direct and more tolerable to the patient. These masks are ideal for patients who sleep on their back since this position is best for an optimal air seal with a full face mask. But, the extra support and straps help even restless sleepers keep their mask in place.
Cons of a Full Face CPAP Mask
Some full face mask cons include:
Higher chance of air leaking due to the larger surface area.
Some patients complain about irritated, dry eyes due to air leaking from the top of their mask.
The mask bulk makes it hard for patients who like to sleep on their side or stomach due to the bulk of the mask and likelihood of it being displaced in these positions.
The mask makes it hard for patients to wear glasses to watch TV or read.
For patients with sleep apnea, CPAP therapy is a great treatment option to ease the most troubling symptoms of this disorder. What are some of the most common complaints associated with this form of treatment?
Here are the top 10 ways to solve common problems you may have with your CPAP mask and the most effective solutions for them.
1. How do I get used to wearing a CPAP mask?
You need to take small steps to get accustomed to wearing your CPAP Mask.
Try wearing the mask during the day when you're watching TV or reading a book. Sometimes simply wearing the mask while you're cooking or even surfing the Internet can help you get used to wearing it at night.
Once you become accustomed to how the mask feels on your face, start wearing the CPAP mask every time you sleep at night, and even during naps.
The reality is that the less you wear the mask, the harder it will be to get used to wearing it. So use the device for several weeks or more to see if the mask and pressure settings you were prescribed still work for you.
2. My CPAP mask is uncomfortable to wear at night!
When it comes to getting a new CPAP mask, it's important that you work closely with your doctor and CPAP supplier to make sure that the mask and device suit your needs and that it fits you properly.
Ask your doctor, sleep technologist, or CPAP supplier to show you how to adjust your mask to get the best fit and read manufacturer product instructions, which can also help you get a better idea about the proper fit.
The good news is that many mask styles are available. Check out the different CPAP mask types and each mask's pros and cons to make sure you choose a mask that best suits your needs.
3. Am I allergic to my CPAP mask?
Is your CPAP mask causing you an allergic reaction, or does your CPAP mask not fit you well?
Here tips on how you can check whether you are allergic to your CPAP mask:
First, stop wearing the CPAP mask and immediately contact your physician. Usually, an allergic reaction to a CPAP mask will occur the same night you wear it.
Ask yourself how frequently you clean your mask. Almost 9 out of 10 times, what appears to be an allergic reaction to a CPAP mask (such as a bruise on the face or a skin infection) is caused by infrequent cleaning of the mask.
Check whether your mask is an old version made with latex. The majority of the CPAP masks in the market today are made from silicone, and a few are made from some type of gel material. Almost all are latex free.
4. I can't tolerate the forced air from the CPAP Mask.
You may be able to overcome this issue by using the "ramp" feature on the CPAP machine.
The "ramp" feature allows you to start with low air pressure, which is then followed by an automatic, gradual increase that eventually sets itself to the pressure you were prescribed by your doctor. The rate of this "ramp" feature can be adjusted by your doctor as well.
If this doesn't help, ask your physician whether you can switch over to a BPAP machine. But make sure you check if this is something that would work better for your treatment needs by reading our side-by-side comparison of BPAP and CPAP machines.
5. My nose is running or stuffy after wearing the CPAP Mask!
First, check if your CPAP device comes with a heated humidifier. Usually, these symptoms can be alleviated by the use of a humidifier. If your CPAP machine does not have one, consider getting one that allows you to adjust the level of humidification.
Consider using a nasal saline spray at bedtime to prevent your nose from overdrying. And finally, make sure that your mask is actually fitting well; a leaky mask can dry out your nose.
6. I feel claustrophobic when I'm wearing the CPAP Mask.
Start off by having a positive attitude about your CPAP treatment.
You may not know it, but the CPAP machine and mask is there to improve the quality of your life; significantly in the long run.
Follow our advice on getting used to wearing your CPAP mask and above all, keep in mind that successful CPAP therapy sometimes requires patience as you adjust to therapy. Talk to your doctor or sleep technologist if you need additional help to adjust to therapy.
Practice wearing your CPAP Mask while you're awake. Practice by first just holding the mask up to your face without any of the other parts attached. Once you're comfortable with that, try wearing the mask with the straps.
Take small steps to get used to the CPAP Mask. Try holding the mask with the hose connected to your face, without using the straps. Have the hose attached to the CPAP machine at a low-pressure setting (with ramp feature turned on). And, finally, wear the mask with the straps and with the air pressure machine turned on while awake. After you're comfortable with that, try sleeping with it on.
Try relaxation exercises. Certain exercises, such as progressive muscle relaxation, also may help reduce your anxiety about wearing your CPAP mask. It may help to get a different size mask or try a different style, such as one that uses nasal pillows.
If you're still feeling claustrophobic, talk to your doctor, sleep, technologist or CPAP supplier.
7. I can't fall asleep easily with the CPAP mask on.
This is a normal, temporary problem that occurs most often with patients new to CPAP therapy. Follow our advice on getting used to your CPAP machine and try out the "ramp" feature of your machine.
Also make sure that you're practicing good sleep hygiene, which includes: exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
8. Why do I have dry mouth after wearing my CPAP mask?
If you breathe through your mouth at night or sleep with your mouth open, CPAP may worsen dry mouth. A chin strap may help keep your mouth closed and reduce the air leak if you wear a nasal mask.
But once again, make sure that you're wearing the right kind of mask and try adjusting your CPAP machine's heated humidifier to see if that helps.
9. I keep on taking my CPAP mask off at night while sleeping.
It's normal to sometimes wake up to find that you've removed the mask in your sleep. If you move a lot in your sleep, you may find that a full face mask will stay on your face better.
You may be pulling off the mask because your nose is congested. If so, ensuring a good mask fit and adding a heated humidifier to your CPAP machine may help. A chin strap also may help you to keep the device on your face.
If this is a consistent problem, consider setting an alarm for sometime in the night, to check whether the device is still on. You could progressively set the alarm for later in the night if you find you're keeping the device on longer.
10. Why is the CPAP machine so loud?
The CPAP machine is most likely a lot quieter than your snoring, but if noise is a problem, you have several options.
Most new models of CPAP devices are almost silent. But if you find a device's noise is bothersome, first check to make sure the device air filter is clean and unblocked. Something in its way may be contributing to the noise.
If this doesn't help, have your doctor, sleep technologist, or CPAP supplier check the device to ensure it's working properly. If the device is working correctly and the noise still bothers you, try wearing earplugs or getting a fan to turn on at night to make"white noise" that can also help to disguise the noise of the CPAP machine.